I found my perfect daypack eight years ago. I called it my perfect pack mainly for its back ventilation system and because it held everything I needed for full day on the trail, though truth be told, when it was fully loaded, it cut into my shoulders. It hangs on a hook in my closet, ready for action, always stocked with a rain jacket, fleece pullover, small first aid kit, Swiss Army knife and the dozen other items I always take on a hike. At least it did until I tested Black Diamond’s “Blast” pack. My perfect daypack is still on its hook, but I was in no rush to restock it after I put its contents inside the Blast.
The new Blast for women (Burn for men) has Black Diamond’s new reactV™ suspension system, which the company claims provides excellent freedom of movement and comfort. It delivers. I’m notorious for overstuffing my daypack then grimacing two hours into a route when the straps dig into my shoulders. It’s tough to overstuff the roomy 1,587-cubic-inch Blast on a day hike, but I filled it up on one climb up an Adirondack 4,000-footer. I spend four hours on the trail and never needed to relieve pressure on my shoulders.
Though the pack rides flat on my back, it still allows surprisingly good air flow. The benefit of its close-to-body fit is that it doesn’t shift when I jump from rock to rock or move at an awkward angle. The hip belt and the SwingArm™ shoulder straps are important to the system, allowing the pack to move with my body. Both are ergonomically shaped for a woman. The straps are correctly curved to follow the contours of my body, and the adjustable chest strap slides up and down so I can position it at the most comfortable spot. Once adjusted at the trailhead, I never touched the straps for the rest of the day.
The waistband is adjustable both at the buckle and at the hips. It’s padded with a slight downward flare to accommodate a woman’s curves. It scored extra points with me for the zip-pocket on the hip belt, a handy place to stash lip balm, a couple of candies and an extra camera battery. I also liked the stretchy pockets on either side of the pack, which gave me quick access to my water bottle, snacks and ball cap.
The Blast comes in two women’s sizes, small for a 15.5-inch to 18.5-inch torso and 30-inch to 35-inch waist; and medium for a 17.5-inch to 20.5-inch torso and 34-inch to 39-inch waist. The waist range confused me. I’m a slim 5 feet 8 inches with a 26-inch waist and a 36-inch hip. The medium-size pack fit perfectly, though the size chart matched my hip size rather than my waist.
The Blast has a narrow profile. It’s only 10 inches wide, but it’s a tall 24 inches and expands off my back by 10 inches when fully loaded. I like its narrow profile which makes pushing through branches easier. Empty, it’s a light 2 pounds 3 ounces and is made of 210-denier nylon ripstop with a subtle diamond pattern on the back panel and a durable 420-denier nylon twill on the sides and bottom. It comes in two colors, a feminine turquoise and neutral steel gray. The bungee-looking laces on the front of the pack are not stretchy, which makes it tougher to shove a layer of clothing under them, though they do a good job at compressing the pack when it isn’t full.
If you’re looking for an all-purpose day pack for around town, work, school and hiking, this is not your pack, but if you want one that will help make your hikes more enjoyable, you’ll have a blast with the Blast. MSRP. $119.95. Black Diamond: 801-278-5533, www.BlackDiamondEquipment.com.